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Trotskyism

After Trotskyism, what? Some personal thoughts

 

 

By Arash Azizi

 

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”
— Karl Marx

 

December 31, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — A few months ago, I left the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), an organization of which I had been a member for more than seven years. Many friends and comrades wrote to ask me to outline the reasons for this decision. I write these lines primarily for them. As someone who had recruited many to the ranks of the IMT, I felt responsible to explain why I had left it and what path do I see ahead in the fight for socialism. I don’t claim to have found a magical formula or the answer to all my questions but hope that these humble lines will be of interest to some.

 

The darker the night, the brighter the star: Leon Trotsky’s struggle against Stalinism

 

 

By Paul Le Blanc

 

July 18, 2016 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – The title of this session – “the darker the night, the brighter the star” – is the title of the fourth and final volume of Tony Cliff’s biography of Leon Trotsky, who was a central leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution of workers and peasants, which turned the Russian Tsarist empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. One of the founders of modern Communism and the Soviet state, Trotsky is also the best known of those who fought against the degeneration of that revolution and movement brought on by a vicious bureaucratic dictatorship led by Joseph Stalin.[1]

 

New books shed light on Trotsky's struggle against Soviet bureaucracy

Leon Trotsky

 

  Reviewed by Barry Healy

 

Leon Trotsky
Paul Le Blanc
Reaktion Books, 2015, 224 pp., $39.99

 

  Trotsky and the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy
Thomas M. Twiss
Brill, 2014, 502 pp., $205.00

 

  January 25, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Leon Trotsky was one of the central leaders of the Russian Revolution. As the organiser and Commissar of the Red Army that saved the Soviet power and leading light of the struggle against Stalinism, he is surely one of the great heroic — and tragic — figures of the Twentieth Century.

 

  Taken together these two books provide an insight into the major theoretical dilemma that emerged from the Russian experience: how a successful revolution could degenerate into a parody of workers’ democracy to the point of becoming a murderous dictatorship.

 

  Because Trotsky’s revolutionary integrity remained untarnished after his murder in 1940 at the hands of a Stalinist assassin it is easy to fall into a deification of his work — something that competing Trotskyist sects have delighted in doing.

 

  Paul Le Blanc steers clear of those rocks in his very fine, short biography. He demonstrates a very clear-eyed and measured approach, combined with an unqualified opposition to Stalinist tyranny.

 

Victor Serge: On the borders of victory and defeat

 

 Victor Serge (left), Benjamin Péret, Remedios Varo, and André Breton

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

January 18, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, reposted from Red Wedge with the author's permission — In 1941, reflecting on his own life, which spanned several revolutions, exile, and prison, Victor Serge commented:

 

The only meaning of life lies in conscious participation in the making of history. The more I think of that, the more deeply true it seems to be. It follows that one must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him. This categorical imperative is in no way lessened by the fact that such an involvement is inevitably soiled by error: it is a worse error to live for oneself, caught within traditions which are soiled by inhumanity. [1]

 

Nikolai Bukharin: ‘The favourite of the whole party’

By Doug Enaa Greene

February 13, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “Bukharin has thirty years of revolutionary work to his credit.”[1] This was the final judgment of Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin's erstwhile adversary in 1938, after his death. These words were not without truth. He lived a life of deep revolutionary and intellectual commitment. Bukharin was one of the leading theorists and leaders of the Bolshevik Party, reaching the heights of power in the USSR in the 1920s.

He was the fierce proponent for the New Economic Policy (NEP) and presented an alternative path of market socialism, to those of Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. He was an ally of Stalin during the party debates of the 1920s, when Stalin declared, "We are, and shall be, for Bukharin."[2]

Paul Le Blanc reviews Daniel Bensaïd's memoir, 'An Impatient Life'

An Impatient Life: A Memoir
by Daniel Bensaïd, translated by David Fernbach, with an introduction by Tariq Ali,
Verso Books, 2014.

Readers of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE. You can download an excerpt HERE (PDF).

Review by Paul Le Blanc

May 11, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Daniel Bensaïd (1946-2010) was one of the most respected theorists to emerge from the 1960s radicals of Western Europe. Always inclined to think “outside the box”, waving aside venerable dogmas and shrugging off standard formulations, he found fresh ways, energised with the aura of unorthodoxy, to express and apply truths from the revolutionary Marxist tradition.

Open Marxism and the dilemmas of coherence: Paul Le Blanc's reflections on the contributions of Michael Löwy

Michael Löwy.

More by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.

By Paul Le Blanc

September 8, 2013 -- ESSF, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Paul Le Blanc's permission and urging -- The discovery of a wondrous continent is what it felt like when some of my closest comrades and I connected with Michael Löwy, this remarkable revolutionary Marxist intellectual and activist -- himself a blend of Austrian Jew, Brazilian, Parisian, seeming to reach out to the world in all directions, an outstanding modern-day representative of Trotsky’s Fourth International. [1]

Review: Paul Le Blanc and Kunal Chattopadhyay’s Trotsky selection ‘a missed opportunity’

Review by Michael Fisher

Leon Trotsky: Writings in Exile
By Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc (eds.)
London: Pluto Press, 2012

March 28, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Few figures in the history of socialist politics have attracted as much praise and contempt as Leon Trotsky. Liberals and social democrats loathed him for his unwavering defence of the October revolution and his uncompromising opposition to the politics of reformism. Communists reviled him for opposing Stalin and Stalinism, for declaring the degeneration of the Soviet regime and pouring scorn on the notion of socialism in one country.

Britain: Socialist Workers Party members debate 'Leninism', party democracy (updated Feb. 3)

The first document below was produced by opposition members of British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (authors listed at its conclusion, the best known include Richard Seymour, Neil Davidson and China Miéville). The SWP is the dominant party within the International Socialist Tendency, with affiliates around the world. The SWP is presently in the midst of a major dispute over inner-party democracy. The article is a reply to SWP leader Alex Callinicos' recent article, "Is Leninism finished?"

Following that are two articles by Tom Walker, a former Socialist Worker journalist who resigned from the SWP during the current dispute.

* * *

Forgotten legacies of Bolshevism on revolutionary organisation

"Iskra. It is often argued that the early period of the organisation of Iskra resembled the small, highly homogenous and monolithic cadre grouping that today is promoted as the sine qua non of revolutionary organisation, but if one looks at the original concept of the Iskra editorial board, we can see it promoted debate among a plurality of tendencies."

[Click HERE for more discussion on revolutionary organisation.]

South Africa: Hamba Kahle Comrade Neville Alexander (1936-2012)

August 30, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal publishes a number of tributes to Neville Alexander, a great South African revolutionary, who died on August 27, 2012. Following the tributes is an extensive biographical essay by the South African History Online project.

* * *

Tribute to Neville Alexander from comrades and friends of the Workers' Organisation for Socialist Action (WOSA)

August 29, 2012 -- Comrades and friends who have known Neville Alexander through the Workers Organisation for Socialist Action mourn the passing of this great socialist and revolutionary. Neville Alexander dedicated his life to the struggle against oppression and injustice and for the upliftment of his fellow human beings.

From the early days of student struggles to his arrest and imprisonment on Robben Island to his latter years working on language and education, Neville Alexander’s deep humanitarian spirit, his respect for the ordinary people and his humility were always present.

A state of affairs worth fighting for: historiography of the Spanish Civil War

By Doug Enaa Greene

September 24, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

“There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”[1]

This was George Orwell’s first impression of revolutionary Barcelona at the end of 1936. In many ways, the phrase, ‘a state of affairs worth fighting for,’ sums up how an entire generation felt about the Spanish Civil War. Whether on the left or right, millions were passionately aroused by the war. Idealistic volunteers from more than fifty countries went to fight on behalf of the Republic. Hitler and Mussolini helped the Nationalist side in their fervent crusade to establish a ‘Catholic Spain.’

Communist International's Fourth Congress: revolutionary fulcrum of the modern world

Toward the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922
Edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, 2011 (hard back), 1310 pages, 200 euros
Haymarket Books, 2012 (paper back), US$55

Haymarket Books is now taking pre-publication orders of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, at US$50, a 10% reduction. It is due to be released in November 2012.

To take advantage of Haymarket’s offer, go to Toward the United Front, order the book, go to “check-out” and enter RIDDELL2012 in the “coupon code” field.

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

Toward the United Front will also be available from Resistance Books in November.

Review by Barry Healy

The debate about the nature of the former Soviet Union: Who was right?

Moscow 2008.

[For more discussion on the nature of the Soviet Union click HERE. See also the related discussion on Stalinism HERE.]

By Chris Slee

July 30, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The nature of the former Soviet Union was an issue which divided the left for many decades. Now that the Soviet Union no longer exists, differing analyses of its class nature should no longer be a reason for maintaining separate socialist organisations.

Nevertheless, this historical debate has relevance to current politics, since the theories developed to explain the nature of the Soviet Union were subsequently applied to other countries, including Cuba. In particular, the theory of state capitalism, of which British Socialist Workers Party leader Tony Cliff was a leading exponent, is applied to Cuba by many groups today, including Solidarity and Socialist Alternative in Australia.

Tony Cliff: biography of a devoted and enthusiastic socialist

Tony Cliff: A Marxist for His Time
by Ian Birchall
London: Bookmarks, 2011, 664 pp.

Review by Barry Healy

July 12, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Tony Cliff was one of the most significant English-speaking Marxist activists of the late 20th century. When he died in 2000, after half a century of unceasing activism, his monument was Britain’s Socialist Workers Party, which, having evolved from the earlier Socialist Review and International Socialism groups, is the largest far-left organisation in that country.

As depicted in Ian Birchall’s biography of Cliff, through the words of a large number of interviewees, not all of whom agreed with him, he refused to tolerate any hint of hero worship or personal cultism. Never a drinker, never a smoker and dying with no wealth to his name, his lived a life of energetic movement and party building combined with literary effort.

John Riddell on the US SWP: Part 2, causes of a socialist collapse (1976–83)

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

Part 2 of a two-part article. Part 1 is available here.

John Riddell on the US SWP: Part 1, SWP attempts an outward turn (1976–83)

In 1976, the campaign of SWP presidential candidate Peter Camejo won unprecedentedly wide support from left currents.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

Part 1 of a two-part article. Part 2 is available here.

Review: Invaluable history, important lessons from Barry Sheppard

Malik Miah.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

By Malik Miah

Who or what killed the US SWP?

Barry Sheppard (right, holding banner pole with Sylvia Weinstein) at an anti-war march in New York in 1966.
The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume I: The Sixties, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (Sydney), 2005, 354 pages.

The Party, The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, Volume II: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988, a Political Memoir by Barry Sheppard, Resistance Books (London), 2012, 345 pages.

[For more discussion of the US SWP, click HERE.]

Review by Peter Boyle

Paul Le Blanc: Why Occupy activists should read the greats of revolutionary socialism

[Read more from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.]

The New Left Project's Ed Lewis interviews Paul Le Blanc

March 6, 2012 -- Paul Le Blanc is professor of history and political science at La Roche College, Pittsburgh. He is the author of a number of books on revolutionary and radical politics, most recently Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience and Work and Struggle: Voices from U.S. Labor Radicalism. He spoke to Ed Lewis about the Get Political campaign, which aims to bring radical activists of today into critical engagement with the ideas of Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.

Ed Lewis: What is the "Get Political" initiative?

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